About “Just Call Me Jess”
Have you ever wondered where to begin in order to achieve your personal goals? Look no further! By accessing your own knowledge and experience I will guide you to achieving your highest dreams. Just Call Me Jess and consider me your personal guide on your journey.
I am a licensed social worker working in an adult community mental health center in the South. I also work with individuals with addictions. Previously I have work with a team in work rehabilitation for adults with serious mental illnesses. I have also worked with children and families, pairing them with community resources and decreasing their risk of separation. Some things I discuss are due to the nature of my work and my education but I do not break confidentiality or share clients stories; I spread awareness.
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I have been interested in gaining first hand what it is like to have a mental illness. How does it impact their life socially, career-wise or in relationships? I was fortunate to be able to find someone comfortable with sharing their story with the world. The individual wishes to remain anonymous which I will respect.
- Tell me about yourself? I am a 71-year-old woman and I have two children. I have been in the Upstate area for a while but I was raised in Florida. I was abused as a child and was the primary caregiver for my immediate family. I was first diagnosed when I was 45 years old, which was when I went and sought help. I was diagnosed with Depression and Disassociative Identity Disorder. I have been in recovery for a few decades and worked with the homeless population as a case manager and have come out of retirement to serve the community yet again.
- What do you feel closely resembles your life? I have different references for each part of my life like, “Just remember it is darkest before the dawn” which may be from a television show or the like. I think the one I value the most is “to thine own self be true”. There is a quote from the Bible that says that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made. It was like I was Pinocchio and turned into a real person”.
- How do you think your mental health impacted your past? What you grow up with is your normal, so it took me a while to realize how sick I was. I think the struggle I have had in the past has developed my strength. It increased my understanding and empathy about people who think something is wrong with them….it certainly increases the compassion.”
- Describe your experiences with therapy? “It was a way for me to begin to understand how the puzzle pieces of my life fit together. To realize what had been lost but I can also learn the skills I should have before the traumatic experiences took place. Therapy gave me back my autonomy.”
- What advice do you have for others who are about to begin therapy? I would want them to know what broke them in the first place will not be as hard to face going through therapy. Honor the process because they are more qualified and capable to handle it now. Going back through it will not break them it will help them look back and learn how to live with those injuries and turn the skills into an asset, not a liability. I am not saying it is easy, but it is not as bad as you think it may be. Just stick with it.”
- What we some of your coping skills? To relax when stressed I use cleaning or mowing grass, working in the yard.
- How did your family react to your diagnoses? Most of my family did not believe me. One sister said the therapist put the idea in my head.
- Did you have any negative experiences when seeking mental health treatment? I was told needing therapy was a lack of faith on my part. I was told using the mental health system was as bad as witchcraft. There is still stigma today regarding mental health but it was worse back in the day.
- What do you attribute to your recovery? God used therapy to increase my faith in HIM. God put the pieces of my life together so I could learn what I needed to learn and learn how to live not just survive.
- Why become a Peer Support Specialist? A peer support specialist is an individual who has a mental illness and is actively in recovery. This individual can relate to their peers and help them develop the skills needed to manage their illness. Those of us fortunate enough to receive healing and regain the ability to live, not just survive, can share how to keep going. We prove the effort is worth it. We can prove that even horrible things cannot stop us from being all we were meant to be. Peer support is a way to let people know there are hope, joy and a zest for living in spite of the past or maybe in part because of our past.
Have you had any experiences with mental health or with a family member with mental illness? How has it impacted your life?